SRUCSA goes to the Climate March!
SRUCSA goes to Scotland’s Climate March, politics of the environment and COP21 – December 2015
With atmospheric CO2 reaching 400ppm last year – the highest ever during human existence – time is running out and serious global co-operation is required to prevent catastrophic climate change! Anthropogenic-accelerated climate change is already happening but real action needs to happen to stop a global temperature increase of 2oC which will be disastrous for the planet.
Before I was elected a sabbatical officer I studied for a BSc (Hons) Sustainable Environmental Management at the SRUC Aberdeen Campus so I am passionate about the environment and tackling climate change. Although I cover a wide remit as SRUCSA President, environment & sustainability is something I’m particularly interested in and this year I’ve been supporting students who want to run environment projects and get involved in environmental activism.
This month world leaders are meeting in Paris for UN Climate Talks to agree on a new international deal to mitigate climate change since the original 1997 Kyoto Protocol is set to expire in 2020. The science is more detailed than in 1997 plus we now have greater public support for climate action so we’re presented with an opportunity to have an ambitious globally-binding treaty to tackle climate change. We are all affected by climate change but the terrible reality is that those who have contributed least will be affected the most.
On Saturday 28th November I was part of a 5-7000 (estimates vary) strong group of people who marched from The Meadows to Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh in what was called ‘Scotland’s Climate March.’ It was a call to action for lots of people to show we are marching for serious climate change action.
At the March there were 10 of us from SRUC; that might not seem like a lot but considering this was effectively the first demo/march that SRUCSA has ever attended I was delighted. We had students from Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Oatridge & Ayr plus 2 SRUCSA officers in attendance. We’re all from a variety of European countries and study a range of subjects, so to not only have a presence at the march but quite a diverse one was fantastic. There are a lot of motivated and enthusiastic students who want to do environmental projects, campaigns and activisim through SRUCSA, so I’m hoping our attendance at this demo will generate further interest and we’ll have higher attendance at future march/demos – including of course the NUS Scotland Demo in March!
The Climate March was fantastic, it was attended by a huge variety of organisations such as students’ associations, political parties, community groups, charities and of course many environmental groups. The march was also organised to be family-friendly which helped to attract a broad range of people. The march was amazing to be part of and the music & speakers at the rally kept up the energy of the day. One particular speaker was quite a contraversial choice and this wasn’t helped by what he choose to say but besides this the event was a success. The weather was threatning throughout and by the end I was so cold but happy that the day had gone so well!
Climate Change can seem overwhelming but there is a lot we can do from making small changes to our own lifestyles to campaigning for political change. I believe we can make a difference which is one of the reasons I was at the climate march last weekend. It was a big opportunity for the people of Scotland to stand together and make a huge statement for action on climate change. Climate change, poverty and hunger are related, climate change will increase inequality which is yet another huge reason why behavioral and political change is needed. I hope world leaders use the UN climate talks wisely and agree on ambitious global action. But they also need to consider who will be most impacted and particularly ensure the people who will be affected most are given support.
Scotland has some of the most ambitious climate change targets in the world and we’re well placed to achieve this as we have 25% of Europe’s renewable energy potential. The Scottish Government wants to achieve 100% of our equivalent energy demand generated by renewables by 2020 and an 80% reduction on our greenhouse gas emissions (1990 level) by 2050 – 42% cut by 2020. Unfortunately the UK Government is not so strong on this area and has recently cut several renewables subsides whilst looking favorably upon unconventional gas (fracking) – we simply cannot afford to be investing into yet another carbon-based form on energy!
I grew up in the Northeast of Scotland where Oil & Gas has had a big influence on the area, but there is a growing number of people in the region who finally recognise that this is not a sustainable setup; neither in terms of social, economic or environmental factors. The recent wave of job layoffs has been devastating (and has affected my family too). Yes from a social perspective we need to support these workers and help find them jobs, but we can’t look at these situation entirely negatively. This is a huge opportunity to transition into a sustaianble energy economy utilising the exisiting skilled workers from oil & gas and creating new opportunities for young people. A renewables revoltuion would not only have environmental benefits, but social & economic advantages too!
Aberdeenshire is now covered in wind turbines, but it’s not all big companies as we have the highest number of community owned projects in Scotland. We have hydrogen buses in Aberdeen City and big plans are in place for a series of environmental projects called the Energetica corridor. A lot was being done to kick-start the transition from oil & gas to a sustainable energy setup but this progress has been significantly inhibited by the UK Government’s actions this year. This is yet another reason why I marched at the weekend, the UK Government’s record on the environment & climate change is poor – I don’t agree with many things they’ve done outside of this area anyway but abruptly cutting support for renewables and environmental projects was a very damaging decision.
I don’t feel the Scottish Government’s response to the North Sea has been ideal either. They’ve focused too much on encouraging even further investment and exploration in the North Sea from the big companies and not enough on creating sustainable opportunities and supporting the increasing number of unemployed energy workers in the region.
With the Scottish Elections next year there is a chance for us to capitalise on the enthusiasm of the march and push for prioritising renewables, energy efficient housing and decomossioning. Scotland also needs better buses & railways and imporved infrastructure for walking & cyclcing if we are to seriously cut our emissions from transport.
At NUS Scotland Zone Conference I think I managed to chat to at least 1 delegate from each union about the Climate March. It was fantastic to see everyone’s enthusiasm for attending the march personally and mobilising students to attend. It was also great to hear about all the environmental work happening across students students’ associations. I’m proud that Students’ Associations are often at the forefront of environmental activism; we drive change through our environmental work, societies and campaigns. Recently students have done some amazing work on divstment campaigns to ensure that our instituions are not only being accountable, transparent and responsible with their investments but to ensure their not using our money to fund climate change!
I want to live in a greener, fairer and equal world and I really hope the UN Climate Talks this month year will be a key step to achieving this.
Alex Robb is the SRUCSA Student President and an SRUC environmental graduate.
If you are interested in getting involved in environmental opportunities through your students’ association then contact Alex or your Campus Officer.